Creating Your Body of Work
Your life is your body of work. What are you creating?
Have you thought about the work you’ve done over the years, including volunteer work, and even raising children, as creating a body of work?
I’ve been thinking about this since reading Pamela Slim’s new book, Body of Work – Finding the Thread that Ties Your Story Together. In it, she takes a big view – looking at all the themes in your life that make up your body of work.
Through a series of exercises, Slim helps us identify the ideas that drive us, our unique skills and strengths, who we want to serve, what we want to create, how we work best, and what success means to us. By getting clear on these things, we’re better able to choose what we want to do moving forward and how to say no to those things that don’t fit our mission in life.
My wish for you is that you create a full-color, full-contact life that brings great value to the world and great joy and success to you and your family. ~ Pamela Slim
Our Photographic Body of Work
If you’re a photographer like me, we can also use the same ideas to consider our body of photographic work. In the latest issue of Photograph (Vol. 6), John Paul Caponigro explores this topic in his article, Developing Bodies of Work. He begins:
One image is a discovery; a body of work develops that discovery. One image presents an idea; a body of work presents a way of seeing. Bodies of work also declare your voice. Completing bodies of work bring mastery. ~ John Paul Caponigro, Photograph (Vol. 6)
A body of work tells a story; it has a beginning, a middle, and an end. It can have more than one theme, but not too many. Every element of the body contributes to the development of one or more of the themes.
Your body of work may consist of several different projects on different themes or it could be one ongoing project with an overarching mission.
For example, in the same issue of Photograph, there is an interview (and portfolio) with Nathan Wirth, whose mission is to express the wonder of existence through photographs that speak to silence.
I hope that such silence permeates my every image. I like to think that one day after I am long gone, someone will see my photographs and feel that silence, maybe even see that silence, that I worked so hard to capture. ~ Nathan Wirth
Wirth has several different projects (or galleries) on his site – zenscapes, seascapes, cityscapes, etc. – all with the theme of silence.
When I look at my own body of work, I think back to the first exhibit I put together on the theme of light. Light has continued to play a major role in my work. However, I would say that my mission has to do with seeing in new ways.
The image above brings together my love for figure skating (formed in childhood) with my more recent passion for abstract photography.
Do you have a major theme in your own work?